The Binding by Bridget Collins
Published in: 2019
Reviewed by: Book Worm
This ARC was provided by Harper Collins UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.
For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.
But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: First how gorgeous is that cover? The book is split into three sections and each section beginning has another gorgeous illustration, while the images may be beautiful the words inside are much darker. One of the central themes of this book is the moral ambiguity created when you can forget everything that hurts you or that you have done to hurt others. Used in the right way binding could be a force for good in society but in the wrong hands there is no end to the damage that can be caused.
At its heart this is a beautifully told love story about star crossed lovers. I enjoyed the way the relationship developed slowly out of initial mistrust and suspicion. The romance felt real as did the need for secrecy and the conflict that drives the lovers apart. While the central characters may have found happiness at the end of the story I think the door has been left open for a sequel one in which the morality of binding can be explored further along with the trade in memories for money, what drives people to give up part of their lives and how do they live with the blanks.
As a book addict I found it intriguing to visit a world where books are bad, and where all books are non fiction. This is not a world I want to live in but a 448 page visit was pure escapism from the worries of the real world.
Who would like this? First a warning this book does involve sexual abuse and manipulation. Warnings out of the way if you like books with a fairy tale feel I would say check this out. Without spoilers the central romance is well worth reading.
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